The Government has defended the move to supply out-of-date face masks to GP practices to tackle the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
The masks were part of a package of personal protective equipment (PPE), including 300 fluid repellent masks, 400 aprons and 300 pairs of gloves, which practices were sent free of charge this month.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has now clarified to Pulse that the masks have been tested and are ‘safe’ to use despite their 2016 expiry date.
A spokesperson said: ‘Every piece of PPE supplied to GPs in England is safe to use and will effectively protect staff if used correctly.
‘NHS Supply Chain and Public Health England have worked with manufacturers and independent testing houses to formally test certain products, to see if it is possible to extend their life via accelerated age testing.’
They added: ‘The products that pass these stringent tests are subject to relabelling with a new shelf-life as appropriate and can continue to be used. All that are not up to standard will be destroyed.’
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced early testing for healthcare workers and testing for asymptomatic individuals on whether they have already had the disease.
A recent Pulse survey revealed that two out of five GPs have still not received any PPE against coronavirus.
As of 16 March, 44,105 people had been tested in the UK, of which 42,562 were confirmed negative and 1,543 were confirmed as positive.